Scoop is saddened to report the passing of John Verzyl, owner of Comic Heaven, and veteran figure in the comic book industry. He was 57 years old.
John began collecting comic books in 1965. Over the next decade he put together a collection of Golden and Silver Age comics that numbered in the thousands. By 1979, when he opened Comic Heaven, he was already known as a force in the industry. For more than a quarter century, his large set-up at Comic-Con International: San Diego has been a fixture for serious collectors. Beginning in 1987, he held an annual Comic Heaven auction.
“It’s almost impossible to describe the loss we have suffered as a community, as a hobby, and as a business with the passing of John Verzyl. Yet as staggering as our loss is in those areas, it doesn’t begin to approach the hole his departure leaves in the lives of those of us who were blessed to call him ‘friend.’ I’ve known him since he was 11 years old. John enthusiastically shared his loves of family, food, and Golden Age comics. He gave freely of his expertise and actively encouraged others to do likewise. And he backed up the way he extolled the things he loved by being equally eager to hear about the passions of others. It was difficult to have a short conversation with John because he was simply a wonderful person with whom to converse. This is a like a punch in the heart,” said Steve Geppi, President and CEO of Diamond Comic Distributors.
A regular contributor to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and The Overstreet Guide To Grading Comics, thousands of his high grade personal copies were photographed for Ernst Gerber’s Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books.
“It’s difficult to imagine a more significant or shocking loss to our ranks. Losing John Verzyl at any age, let alone so young at 57, is a crushing blow for everyone who knew him. I can barely take it in. He has been active in the world of comic books for almost his entire life, and he has made major contributions to the Guide as an Overstreet Advisor for 30 years. During each of those three decades, he’s eagerly participated in extolling the fun of collecting comics, sharing their incredible history, and correcting misconceptions. He gave freely of his time, his advice, and his friendship. He was an original and will remain that way in the memories of his family, friends and colleagues. What a sad, sad thing this is,” said Robert M. Overstreet, author and Publisher of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.
As a collector, he is noted for his early, vigorous and successful pursuit of the Edgar Church (“Mile High”) pedigree comic books, particularly the Timely issues from that famous collection. He assembled all but a handful of them in his personal collection.
“John’s passing is not just a loss for his family, friends, and me, but it’s also a huge loss for our hobby and community. For me personally, John is irreplaceable as a friend and fellow hobbyist. He was, in every sense of the word, a collector’s collector, and probably the largest seller of very high grade and pedigree comic books. The knowledge this giant of a man, or in comic code, ‘King-Size’ man, helped shape generations of collectors and dealers. Myself included. The knowledge he gave to even the ‘giants’ in our hobby is incalculable,” said Steve Borock, President and Primary Grader for CBCS.
Among collectors and even among competing dealers, he was characterized by his warmth.
“John lived life to its fullest. Always a kind word for everyone, a giant laugh with a crazy sense of humor, made you feel that the deal you did with him was fair and had one of the best collections on the planet while at the same time being very humble about that. The only thing John loved more than comics were his children. A prouder father would be damn hard to find. I could and would probably write about John for days, but my heart is broken at the moment, and I am having a hard time writing and editing though the tears, but something needed to be written in honor of my friend, teacher, and confidant,” Borock said.
“John was the most generous person I have ever known. He treated everyone with kindness and compassion. He always made each person he talked to feel special. There were so many private acts of kindness he did for so many. Things he never wanted anyone to know about. He did these things to help out people in need with no thought of reward or recognition. He did it because he was blessed in his life and felt it his moral duty to help others in his community and beyond. He has inspired me and countless others. I am a better person for having known him,” said CGC’s Mark Haspel.
His early collecting habits had developed into an incredible reservoir of comic book data. Stories, creators, significant covers – and many not all that significant as well – along with what collectors had purchased them and when. Any of this, and much more, could come up in a conversation with John.
“He was one of the biggest and most well-known comic book collectors in the world. His comic book knowledge was unsurpassed. He didn’t just have most every cover committed to memory. He could also remember a comic book he saw over 30 years ago with uncanny detail. I’ve witnessed this hundreds of times. It was supernatural. Genius does not even begin to describe him. Most of the comics pictured in the 1989 Photo Journal were his copies. The comic book collecting hobby has lost one of its greats,” Haspel said.
“The uniformity of the comments about John Verzyl will tell you much of what you should know about this man. His friends are legion, his colleagues are devoted, and his detractors… well, there just aren’t any. He set the bar for being an Overstreet Advisor. John’s contributions to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide over three decades are far, far too numerous to count. They are dwarfed, though, by his contributions to the field in the form of his tutelage, and more importantly his friendship. I had imagined having great discussions with him for years and years to come. This is a painful reminder to make sure our friends know what they mean to us,” said J.C. Vaughn, Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing.
Services will be held at 12 PM on Sunday, March 18, 2018 at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home and Memorial Park, 7405 Northwest Highway, Dallas, Texas 75225.
John Verzyl was an iconic collector/dealer. His loss will leave all of us missing his expertise, his guidance, and most of all, his passion for the comic collecting hobby.
On a personal level, I simply feel a great sense of loss. Comic books are simply stacks of paper with staples. John brought them to life with stories of the past and passionate debate. Not sure how I am going to replace that. Quite frankly, the way I feel right now, I don’t think there will ever be a way to replace him. In the future, whenever I hear the word “cherry,” I will think of him. Rest in peace, my friend.
My coworkers and I, along with countless others in the comics collecting field, have been walking around like zombies this week, numb with shock. Yet sometimes we can’t help smiling through our grief, wistfully recalling some of John Verzyl’s characteristic moments. I rarely attend comic shows, but when I did, I probably talked with John more than with anyone else. Once John started telling stories or launching into a sales pitch, it was impossible to leave. Not that I wanted to – nobody could sell like John, or keep you engaged and happy while bombarding you with his spiels. He got me to pull the trigger almost every time, mostly through sheer persistence and his infectious joy just to be doing what he was doing.
I’m especially glad that my son Mikey got to spend time with him recently because John was a terrific role model: devoted dad, kind, brilliant, a generous teacher, and a joyous person, consistently grateful for every piece of good fortune that ever came his way. I once told Mikey that John was probably the greatest comics dealer of all time, and after a very short time with him, my son had no choice but to believe that. John worked as hard as anyone in the business, but to him working was really just playing. He sat through almost every live auction we held since our first one in 2001. Literally scores of them. Always smiling and fully engaged.
John was extremely analytical, and fierce when competing for deals and for business, but I never heard him say a negative word about any competitor… or anyone, ever, really. He wanted to win, yet he still rooted for everyone else. Over the years I’ve tried to channel that quality – and as many others as I could – from John.
In comic-dom, John Verzyl was part of our ether. I’d imagine many of my colleagues feel, just like I do, that suddenly there’s a little less oxygen and a lot less energy in the air that surrounds us. I’ve known many brilliant people, particularly in comics, this Hobby of Many Geniuses, yet none more brilliant than John. And for my taste, John was the most fun and the most childlike. I guess that might be the hardest part of accepting that he’s gone – he was like a big, happy, sweet, precocious kid… and children are supposed to outlive us. I still want to believe he’ll be at the next Comic-Con, convincing me to buy from him, for too much money, something that I desperately want, even though I shouldn’t.
John Verzyl was a giant within the industry. His knowledge concerning all things Golden Age was legendary, however perhaps the industries greatest loss, is John’s personality, his rambunctious sense of humor and that unrestrained laugh. The industry will miss his encyclopedic knowledge of comics, and his friends and acquaintances will miss his warm spirit.
We have lost one of the giants in our hobby. It was shocking news, and difficult to process. John was a very big man in very many ways. He had a big personality, a big mind, a big heart, and a big smile. His passion for this hobby ‒ and especially high-grade pedigree comic books (particularly Edgar Church/Mile High examples and Timelys) was second to none. His knowledge was deep, he was eager to share it and this trait cherished by many.
John was universally respected for what he accomplished within the hobby but he was also a wonderful person outside the hobby. He was a powerful force of positive energy ‒ always smiling, always curious (though he already knew more than anyone else), always interested in other people and in drawing us in to chat for hours ‒ even at the most inopportune times. His stories were hysterical. What I will remember the most is the sparkle in his eyes, his smile, his unique voice, his sense of humor, and his boundless positive energy. He made an important impact on many people’s lives. I will miss him dearly.
I was lucky enough to get to know John over the years. He was not only a major force in the industry, but the sweetest guy with a big heart. Every time I saw him he was cheery and full of conversation. And whip smart. It was always fun navigating through deals with him; I always walked away a little smarter each time. I really appreciated his sense of humor, which perfectly fit his personality. When I think of him I can’t help but recall those hilarious moments we had.
John will leave a giant void in this hobby. His extraordinary memory, his immeasurable influence on the market, and the countless friends and collectors he made along the way will never be duplicated. I miss him terribly.
I met John when I was only 17 years old. He quickly took me under his wing and helped me amass a nice collection at an early age. I used to help him set up at the Shrine show in LA and also in San Diego (that worked out well for both of us as I got to learn from John for free and he got free labor out of me!). Driving from LA to SD with him, he made the trip seem like it only lasted five minutes as he always had something to tell me. He has told me so many stories and given me so much information over the past three decades I could fill a book. He was larger than life! He loved a good joke and really loved pulling “harmless” pranks! He was always in either business mode or fun mode. He really took pride in his children and would always tell me about their most recent accomplishments.
I really don't know what else to say right now. John only posted on the comic boards one time when our good friend Joe Smejkal passed away a few years ago. I can't believe I'm posting about his passing now.
I’d known John for over 20 years. Beyond his photographic memory, encyclopedic knowledge of comics and ability to calculate a complex mathematical equation in his head in an almost Rain Man-like fashion, John was a really funny and sweet guy. Always laughing and with a smile on his face, John had a way of making you feel welcome and part of the gang even if he barely knew you. Since I learned of his passing, I’ve woken up and gone to sleep thinking about it. In the middle of the day I will stop and realize that one of the smartest minds in comics is gone, but hopefully not in spirit. It behooves us all to pick up the mantle John left behind. One of inclusion, one of teacher and student, one of fun and fascination, and of kindness. These are the qualities John had that made him so special. We’ve lost a very special person and this year’s Chicago Wizard World Con where I set up right across from John will not be the same without him there. Rest in peace, John.